By NITZ ARANCON
THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) would be training over 400 police officers to operate its vote-counting machines in Misamis Oriental, provincial elections supervisor Aleli Dayo-Ramirez said yesterday.
Ramirez told a news conference that the officers would be taught how to use the vote counters as part of their training to serve in the elections as a fail-safe.
Col. Rolando Destura, Misamis Oriental police director, said the National Police would be fielding 1,088 officers throughout the province on May 13.
“It’s all systems go,” said Destura.
He said the Army’s 4th Infantry Division would also be deploying soldiers to the province’s hinterland villages.
The police, according to Destura, would focus its security operations on coastal areas while the Army would secure the uplands of Misamis Oriental.
The Comelec said its has already finalized all its plans in Misamis Oriental, and by May 10, the Commission would start sending 1,275 vote-counting machines and election paraphernalia to all the province’s clustered precincts, including those in the component cities of Gingoog and El Salvador City.
Each clustered election precinct would have a vote-counter.
Ramirez said 3,825 public schoold teachers would serve in the clustered precincts and in the various boards of election inspectors.
“There will be three teachers for every precinct on election day,” Ramirez said.
Lt. Col. Roy Anthony Derilo, commander of the 58th Infantry Battalion, said the military has already started the deployment of troops in the outlying villages of Gingoog City, Lagonglong, and other hinterland villages in the province’s 1st District with insurgency threats.
Derilo said the aim is to prevent the communist New People’s Army from disrupting the elections.
“Gi-prevent namo nga dili maka-establish og kampo ang mga NPA sa mga hinterland barangay sa eastern parts of Misamis Oriental,” Derilo.
The same is being done by the military in western areas of Misamis Oriental and hinterland villages of Cagayan de Oro, particularly Barangay Mambuaya, according to Lt. Col. Benjamin Pajarito, commander of the Army’s 65th Infantry Battalion.
“Sa mga hinterland barangays sa Cagayan de Oro ug sa western parts of Misamis Oriental, na-ay mga armado nga mo-agi lang, apan wala magkampo. Ma-o nang amo silang unhan aron dili sila makapalig-on sa ilang puwersa, labi na sa election,” Pajarito said.
Last week, Comelec regional director lawyer Wilfred Jay Balisado told a joint coordinating conference at Camp Alagar, “Preparations are going well. We know the job for so long and the election should be taken seriously. There’s no time to relax.”
He expressed his optimism the conduct of this year’s election would be successful. “We are confident that together with the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police and other stakeholders we will be able to have another successful conduct of elections. Just like 2016, we will strive so that there will be no failure of elections this 2019.”
Maj. Gen. Franco Nemesio Gacal, commaner of the 4th Infantry Division, said the government is making sure that all the 1.7 million voters of the region would be able to safely and freely exercise their right to vote.
“Our combat mode will continue,” said Gacal, adding that the military doesn’t want rebel groups to take advantage of the situation.
He said the military is strengthening intelligence gathering and monitoring operations, and is keeping an eye on on the NPA’s election-related fund-raising scheme.
“We discourage the candidates to entertain such idea since these run contrary to the desire of President Duterte when he signed Executive Order 70 that established the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Insurgency,” Gacal said.
“Let us have an honest, free and peaceful election in order for the newly elected officials to uphold the peace and development efforts of the government,” Gacal said.